NFL Nation: Falcons-Giants WC 2012

Final Word: Falcons at Giants

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:30
PM ET
Wild-Card Final Word: Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints | Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Falcons-Giants wild-card round game:

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMatt Ryan has played much better against standard pressure in the second half of the season, throwing 12 TDs and no picks.
There's no place like home ... or is there? From 1990 to 2003, the first 14 years after the NFL expanded the playoffs to include 12 teams, home teams were a combined 41-15 in this wild-card round. But over the past seven seasons, home teams have a record of just 13-15 in this round. Will the New York Giants have a home-field advantage over the Atlanta Falcons come Sunday? Well, it'll be cold, but not horribly so. Weather.com is currently showing a forecast high of 45 degrees and a 0 percent chance of precipitation for Sunday, so about the best for which a dome team like Atlanta could hope traveling north this time of year. The Giants were just 4-4 at home this year (though they did win a "road" game in their home stadium on Christmas Eve against the Jets), and the Falcons were 4-4 on the road. So that doesn't really tell us much, does it?

Ryan versus the rush: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan isn't likely to see a lot of blitzes Sunday, since the Giants' defense relies on its four down linemen to pressure the quarterback. That's likely fine with Ryan. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ryan has thrown 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions when the opponent rushes four or fewer over the past seven games. In his first nine games of this season, Ryan had nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in such situations. That likely means the line is blocking better for him and he's not making as many bad decisions under pressure as a result. We shall see if Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul can buck the trend.

Big-play dudes: In Julio Jones and Victor Cruz, the Falcons and the Giants have two of the best receivers in the league at making things happen after they catch the ball. Jones, the Falcons' rookie from Alabama, ranked first in the NFL this year among qualified receivers with 7.6 yards per catch after the reception. Cruz, the Giants' second-year breakout star, was second in the league in yards after the catch with 601 and third in the league with 7.3 yards per catch after the reception. Cruz was second in the league with nine catches of 40 or more yards, second only to Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Jones was tied for fourth in that category with seven such catches. That all comes courtesy of the "Next Level" stats we get every week from ESPN Stats & Information.

Final Word: Falcons at Giants

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:30
PM ET
Wild-Card Final Word: Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints | Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s Falcons-Giants playoff game:

[+] EnlargeTony Gonzalez
Dale Zanine/US PresswireWill star Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez finally notch his first playoff win on Sunday?
Not a hard road. The Falcons aren’t known as a great road team, especially when they have to play outdoors. But traveling to MetLife Stadium shouldn’t be as frightening as many people think. The home-field advantage isn’t as big a deal as one might consider. Since 2004, home teams are 13-15 in wild-card playoff games.

Protecting Matty Ice. It already has been established that one of the biggest matchups in this game will be Atlanta’s offensive line against New York’s pass rush. The Falcons had a tough time protecting Matt Ryan early in the season, even against base defenses. But Atlanta’s offensive line has been better of late. In his past seven games, Ryan has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions against four or fewer pass rushers. But, with Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants are one of the league’s best at generating a pass rush from their front four.

Gonzo’s unlucky streak. Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez probably will be a first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He already holds virtually every receiving record for tight ends. But there’s one thing Gonzalez never has done. He’s gone through his entire career without winning a playoff game. Gonzalez’s 238 regular-season games without a playoff win are the most by a position player in the Super Bowl era. Gonzalez played in three playoff games with Kansas City and was with Atlanta last season when the Falcons lost to the Packers.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider